College is a major transitional period, where most students discover who they are and what they want to do. It comes with new friends, new experiences, and new challenges that push you to become a better version of yourself. Of course, college can be emotionally, physically, and financially draining, but it will unlock new doors and paths that weren’t available before.
Benefits of studying abroad
This info is nothing new and something you’ve probably heard before (countless times, I’m sure). However, if you want to maximise the benefits of college seriously, find a way to study abroad. The stigma around studying abroad is changing from rich kids who want to party in a different country, to students who wish to flourish personally and professionally. Below is a series of reasons explaining the benefits of studying abroad.
Travelling to new places
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”Saint Augustine
One of the most obvious incentives to study abroad is for travel. There is so much to see, but people often settle into a small part of the world and lose their sense of curiosity. If you get the opportunity, travel far and wide; see as much as you can. There’s something so surreal and fulfilling about seeing an insane monument or piece of art that you’ve only ever seen in books and movies.
The possibility of walking the Great Wall of China or having a picnic under the Eiffel Tower is reason enough to seek out a program abroad. Even while abroad, travel some more. You can usually find cheap flights and train tickets at a low price, especially around Europe! Interrail (or Eurail for non-EU citizens) is an amazing way to discover the diversity of all the EU countries. Learn more about it on our article about the best interrailing routes.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”Tim Cahill
One of the most obvious benefits of studying abroad is making lifelong friends. Culture shock and homesickness can be side effects of visiting a new country. The best way to combat these side effects is to bond with people experiencing the same struggles.
If you ever went camping growing up, you’re probably familiar with the concept of accelerated friendships: you meet a stranger, bond over common situations, and before you know it, you’re calling this person your best friend. Studying abroad is a less juvenile form of summer camp that elicits the same feelings; you share notable experiences and talk about life and grow together with strangers, and those relationships become something you’ll cherish forever.
“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of the experience.”Francis Bacon
Education is the ultimate excuse to pursue a program abroad; travelling the globe and interacting with different cultures, all in the name of school? Ideal. An entirely new environment, curriculum, and teaching style forces you outside of your learning comfort zone. It provides real-life applications of lessons learned. In James E. Zull’s chapter of Student Learning Abroad, he states that one should prepare for studying abroad by “developing the habit of intentional introspection…followed by actions that test new ideas and awareness of this process.”
In other words, studying abroad should be a metacognitive experience; as you learn and reflect, you should become more aware of your knowledge. Then you can apply that knowledge to your studies and life and overall thinking. It’s a transformative experience that goes beyond merely “learning.”
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”Gustav Flaubert
Experiencing different cultures expands your understanding of the world and humans, and it teaches empathy. Studying abroad provides a safe and immersive way to interact with a new culture. I mentioned “culture shock” earlier, and it can be a downer during a trip abroad; it may be overwhelming to enter a new country and suddenly be the outsider.
Take a moment to remind yourself that this is an incredible opportunity, and make the most of it. Ask questions, mingle with locals, learn about their traditions, eat their signature dishes, try to learn their language; all of these aspects are what make new places fun and exciting and worth absorbing. Cultural experiences create new perspectives.
“To effectively communicate, we must realise that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”Tony Robbins
There are many valuable life skills to be learned while studying abroad, and probably the most useful of these skills is communication. When you’re travelling, you have to be able to communicate, whether it’s for directions, ordering food, or checking into your hotel. If you want to become fluent in a foreign language, immersing yourself in the country and practising in real-world situations is the fastest way to learn.
It can be tough if you don’t understand the language at all, so do some research; learn simple, common phrases, such as “hello” and “goodbye,” “bathroom,” “how much,” etc. You’ll also need to communicate with your professor(s) and classmates to do well in your course. While in a foreign place, you have to be able to ground yourself and ask for help from people inside and outside your circle. The more you’re able to communicate, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”Anonymous
Employers are always looking for candidates that stand out from the crowd. College doesn’t guarantee students their dream job, so it’s essential to work hard and seize opportunities that will further your professional career and give you the experience that will make you stand out.
In the article “Employer Attitudes toward Study Abroad,” Stevan Trooboff suggests that “students who opt to study abroad are making a decision that can have a very positive impact on their employability” (Trooboff et al, 2008). He provides evidence that employers associate valuable skills with international studies, including, but not limited to:
- Adapting well to change
- Working well under pressure
- Analysing, evaluating and interpreting well
- Working effectively outside one’s comfort zone
- Communicating effectively in intercultural situations
Studying abroad implies that you take risks, like adventure, and are a well-rounded individual. Several aspects are taken into account when employers decide the significance of a study abroad program, such as location, duration, and curriculum. Ultimately, studying abroad is often favoured by hiring professionals, and it only adds to your credibility and experience.
“At its best, travel should challenge our preconceptions and most cherished views, cause us to rethink our assumptions, shake us a bit, make us broader minded and more understanding.”Arthur Frommer
Putting yourself outside of your comfort zone and furthering your education are two of the most important benefits of studying abroad. Living and studying in a foreign country is a unique process of self-exploration and world-exploration that shows you just how capable you are. It ignites your curious nature and encourages you to be more confident and independent.
New experiences and people create new perspectives, and, as a result, change your way of thinking. You learn how to navigate, how to communicate, how to be your person while studying abroad. You’re guaranteed to return home with countless memories, lessons learned, and new-found confidence.
This article was written by Kimmie McKibben. Find more of her musings in her personal travel blog.